The Brooke-Heath Murders Part 2

About the Brooke-Heath series of murders, history of the victims and the crime, account of the hunt for the murderer, the trial and verdict.


Three days after Doreen Marshall was reported missing, Group-Captain Brooke called the police in Bournemouth, offering information about the missing girl. Suspicious, the police determined that they had found the missing Heath--he and Brooke were one and the same. Caught, Heath asked that they get him his sports jacket, which was back at the hotel. In it was incriminating evidence--a cloak room ticket, which, the police discovered, was for a suitcase. In the suitcase were articles marked with Heath's name and a plaited leather riding whip. Also in the coat pocket was the return half of a railway ticket belonging to Doreen Marshall. In his room, they found an artificial pearl. Two days later, the girl's body was found.

The Accused: Neville George Clevely Heath was 29 years old when he was arrested. Charming and suave, he had dimples, a cupid's bow mouth, and curly hair. He had been court-martialed in 1937 for being absent without leave from the RAF. He was sent to Borstal prison in 1938 for theft, housebreaking, and fraud. He joined the Army in 1940 and was cashiered the following year for having a fake 2nd paybook, passing bad checks, and being AWOL. Shortly after, he joined the South African Army and took a wife, but divorced her in 1945. He was repeatedly brought before the courts for wearing military decorations he was not entitled to wear.

The Trial: Heath wanted to plead guilty to the murder of Margery Gardner, but his lawyer convinced him not to. His defense was insanity, and debates about insanity dominated the 3-day trial. Heath's main concern was what he would wear--he decided on a gray suit, gray shirt, and dotted blue tie.

It took the jury 59 minutes to decide on a verdict of guilty.

The End: Without appeal, Heath was executed on October 26, 1946. On his way to the scaffold, it is said, he asked the prison governor for a whiskey. "Ahhh . . ." he added crisply, "you might make that a double. . . ."

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